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2009 Allan Ludman and Stephen Marshak CHAPTER 3 MINERALS PURPOSE To practice scientific classification and learn how minerals are different from...

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© 2009 Allan Ludman and Stephen Marshak CHAPTER 3 MINERALS PURPOSE • To practice scientific classification and learn how minerals are different from other materials. • To learn the skills involved in identifying minerals • To become familiar with common rock-forming minerals • To learn what minerals can reveal about Earth processes and Earth history MATERIALS NEEDED • A set of mineral specimens • Hand lens, streak plate, glass plate, knife or steel nail, and a penny to determine the physical properties of minerals. • Dilute hydrochloric acid for a simple chemical test. INTRODUCTION This chapter begins our study of Earth materials. It starts by examining the different kinds of materials in the geosphere and then focuses on minerals, the basic building blocks of most of the Earth. You will learn how minerals are different from other substances, how to study their physical properties, and how to use those properties to identify common minerals. 3.1 CLASSIFYING EARTH MATERIALS Imagine an octopus swimming in the ocean when a container falls off a freighter overhead. The container breaks up and spills its entire cargo of sneakers, sandals, flip-flops, shoes, moccasins, and boots into the sea. The octopus is curious about these objects and wants to learn about them. How would she classify them? Remember, an octopus doesn’t have heels or toes, has 8 legs, doesn’t understand “left” and “right”, and doesn’t wear clothes. One system might separate items that are mostly enclosed (shoes, boots, sneakers, etc.) from those that are open (sandals, flip-flops). Another might separate objects made of leather from those made of cloth; or brown objects vs black ones; or big ones vs small ones. There are many ways to classify footwear, some of which will lead our octopus to deeper understanding of the reasons for the differences. Early geologists faced a similar task in the 17 th century when they began to study Earth materials systematically by classifying them. Why classify things? Because classification shows us relationships 1
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between things that lead to understanding them and the processes by which they were made. Biologists classify organisms, art historians classify paintings, and geologists classify Earth materials. Exercise 3.1 introduces the thought processes involved in developing a classification scheme. EXERCISE 3.1: CLASSIFYING EARTH MATERIALS a)Examine the specimens of Earth materials provided by your instructor. Group them into categories you feel are justified by your observations and explain the criteria by which you set up the groups. Group Defining criteria for each group Specimens in group b) Compare your results with others in the class. Did you all use the same criteria? Are their specimens in the same groups as yours? c)What does your comparison tell you about the process of classification? 3.2 WHAT IS A MINERAL AND WHAT ISN’T? Most people know that Earth is made of minerals and rocks but don’t know the difference between them. The words “mineral” and “rock” have very specific meanings to geologists, often much more precise than those used in everyday language. For example, what a dietitian calls “a mineral” is not a mineral to a geologist. Geologically, a mineral is a naturally occurring, homogeneous, inorganic solid with an ordered internal arrangement of atoms and a distinctive chemical composition. Let’s look at this definition more closely. 2
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Exercise 3.3 PROPERTY
Height
Weight
Hair color
Beard
Eye color
Other DIAGNOSTIC (Explain)
* AMBIGOUS (explain)
*
*
* * Diagnostic properties. The height of a person does not change significantly,...

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